According to the preliminary version of testimony provided by local law enforcement officers, the woman "was killed by a reptile".
“She appears to have been strangled by the snake,” Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Kim Riley said as quoted by the Journal & Courier. “We do not know that for a fact until after the autopsy.”
About 140 snakes were found in the house, 20 of which belonged to Hurst. According to CNN, the snake was a reticulated python, which is native to southeast Asia and considered to be the longest snake in the world.
The building was built as a "reptile house", and belongs to the Benton County Sheriff Don Manson; there aren't any people living there.
The sheriff said that Hurst’s death was a "tragic accident with loss of human life," and that he was "being fully cooperative with everybody". The autopsy scheduled for Friday will clarify the cause of Hurst's death.